The best hidden Android 12 features we found while digging into Google’s operating system


What’s in Google’s new Android 12 operating system for phones? We have found some tips that go unnoticed.

James Martin / CNET

Google has started rolling out its latest mobile operating system, Android 12, last month after the start of the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The new operating system is available for all Google phones from Pixel 3 and later. (Here’s how install android 12 now if your phone is compatible.) The mobile software will arrive on other Android devices, including phones from Samsung, OnePlus, and Xiaomi, later this year.


Brett Pearce / CNET

Android 12a several new features differentiate itself from Android 11, in particular new privacy tools, a redesign called Material You and more. (Here’s how Android 12 compares to Android 11.) But, as I often say when releasing new operating systems, the best features are usually the most hidden. These are features that weren’t announced, but which you should look for in the operating system. For example, there is a dedicated game mode in Android 12, but it’s buried in the Settings app. There is also a shortcut to your device’s notification history when you accidentally dismiss an alert.

Read more: You need to change your Pixel 6’s default settings

We’re still digging into Android 12 and what it has to offer, but so far we’ve found four hidden features that will definitely come in handy. (If you are an Apple user, here is everything we know about iOS 15, some hidden features we found and 20 iPhone Settings You Should Change.)

Android 12 keeps your notification history close at hand

Do you ever delete a notification without reading it? I do it all the time. Android has been offering the device’s notification history for quite some time now, but you either had to know where to look or install a third-party app to see it.

In Android 12, all you have to do is scroll to the bottom of your notification shade, where you’ll see a new one Story button. Tap on it and you’ll see recently cleared notifications as well as alerts from the last 24 hours.

If you see Manage in the place of Story, it’s because Notification history is not on. Activate it by pressing Manage, then select Notification history and slide the switch to the At position.


You now have quick access to your past notifications.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Android 12 makes big phones smaller

A new one-hand mode in Android 12 It might not be a flagship feature, but it is a feature that could make a big difference in the way you use your phone. This is especially true if you are using a phone with a large screen, such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The new one-handed mode moves the top half of everything on your screen to the bottom half, making it easier to use a quick settings tile or notification. To use it, place a finger on the little bar at the bottom of your phone screen and swipe down. It might take a few tries, but once you get the hang of the gesture it’s easy to replicate.

Before you can do that, however, you’ll need to activate it by going to Settings > System > Gestures > One-handed mode and slide the switch to the At position. Under the switch to enable the feature, you will have two options: Pull the screen within easy reach Where Show notifications. Select the first option, then close the Settings app.


Use the new game mode in Android 12 to improve performance or live stream to YouTube.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

There is a dedicated game mode in Android 12

If you play a lot of games on your Android device, you’ll be happy to hear that Google is adding a dedicated game mode to Android 12. When turned on, your phone does things like automatically turn on so as not to disturb when you start playing.

But you’d never know the mode existed if you didn’t venture deep into your notification settings. Specifically, go to Settings > Notifications > Do not disturb > Schedules. Once there, check the box next to Game mode to turn it on. Then press the Settings gear icon and switch the two elements.

From my brief testing experience, the game mode doesn’t work in all games (looking at you, Asphalt 9). However, it works in Call of Duty Mobile. When it’s active, you can do things like force your phone to optimize for gaming with one click or view your device’s current frames per second.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Android 12 has a new app layout option, but it could be Pixel-only

The app grid on your phone’s home screen normally spans a 4×4, 5×5, or 6×6 grid (or similar combinations). However, in Android 12 on the Pixel 5, there’s a new app grid option that’s downright fun at first glance – 2×2. I’m guessing this is limited to Pixel phones, but hopefully other phone makers embrace it because it’s a huge accessibility feature for those who need larger app icons.

Switch to the new 2×2 layout with a long press on your home screen, then select Styles and wallpapers> Gate > 2×2.

For more information, consult the best Android phones to buy in 2021, all the reasons why you should give Pixel phones another chance and how the Pixel 6 with its Tensor chip is more exciting than iPhone 13.

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